The UFC 253 prelims just finished up with a three-round war between lightweights Brad Riddell and Alex da Silva. It was da Silva who had a strong opening round, leaning on his grappling to grind on his adversary. The following two acts saw Riddell come alive with his boxing, and almost scored a finish in the third. He hurt da Silva with a punch to the eye, but the referee stepped in and called a timeout, thinking it was an eye poke. That gave da Silva a chance to recover, but Riddell did enough anyways to take the scorecards. This makes three up and three down for the New Zealand native.
Before that, Jake Matthews dominated longtime UFC veteran Diego Sanchez for three-whole rounds. Matthews won the standup battle as well as owned the ground exchanges, which all aided him in three scores of 30-26. This makes three-straight wins for “The Celtic Kid,” who called for an opponent close to the top-15 in his next outing.
Also on the prelims, Ludovit Klein made his promotional debut in style by knocking out Shane Young with a sensational striking combination in the first-round. It was a head kick to three-piece boxing combo that put down Young, and it all happened in 76-seconds. Klein did miss weight for this bout by four-pounds, making him ineligible for a post-fight bonus, but wow was that exciting!
Earlier in the night, TUF Season 18 winner Juan Espino submitted Jeff Hughes with a scarf hold in the first round. Espino took down his opponent several times en route to sniffing out the finish, showcasing his tremendous grappling prowess. Let’s hope the heavyweight can stay healthy, as this was his first fight since November of 2018.
**See complete results below
Brad Riddell def. Alex da Silva by unanimous decision (29-28 x3): Lightweight
Da Silva caught his foe with a punching combo right away, and Riddell responded with a boxing flurry of his own. Da Silva switched levels and put Riddell on his back. Riddell worked hard to get back to his feet, but Da Silva stayed glued to him, and it took even more effort to return to open space. Riddell shot in for a takedown of his own but had to fight off a guillotine attempt instead.
The fighters clinched against the fence up to begin the second act, with da Silva fighting for the takedown and Riddell not allowing it. Back in open space they started trading in the pocket, with Riddell getting the better of the exchanges. Riddell started to pressure behind his punches, backing up da Silva. By the end of the round, da Silva had started to punch back to make it a close round.
Riddell stuck to his boxing in the final round, throwing his punches in sets of two and three. He seemed to be the fresher fighter, but da Silva was still throwing back when he could. A punch to the eye of da Silva resulted in the referee passing the action thinking it was an eye poke. The referee then restarted the bout, but it’s unfortunate that the hurt fighter was given a break. Riddell got aggressive, letting his hands go and searching for the finish.
Jake Matthews def. Diego Sanchez by unanimous decision (30-26 x3): Welterweight
Matthews clocked the veteran with a set of right hands to open up the bout. Sanchez tried his best to stay away, flinging out leg kicks to try and keep the distance. Sanchez landed a couple of strikes at the end of the round, but also gave up a takedown because of it.
Matthews pressed forward to start the second act, but had to eat a couple of low calf kicks while doing so. Matthews began to work his boxing, popping Sanchez with hard single strikes. The veteran kept pressing forward, even though he wasn’t really landing a ton of strikes.
Matthews scored an early knockdown in the third frame. He took top position and started raining down punishment. By this point, Sanchez was leaking blood all over the canvas. Sanchez recovered and began to look for ways to be effective off of his back, throwing up a couple of armbar attempts. The round ended with Matthews pounding away from the top with a series of ground strikes.
Ludovit Klein def. Shane Young by KO at 1:16 of round 1: Featherweight
The featherweights met in the middle and began to feel out one another. Then, Young unleashed a head kick to jab-upercut-hook combination that dropped Klein like a sack of potatoes. Young was donezo!
**It should be noted that Klein missed weight by four-pounds
William Knight def. Aleksa Camur by unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28 x2): Light Heavyweight
The fighters clinched up early and spent a lot of time jockeying for position against the fence. Camur worked for body lock takedowns, but Knight did a solid job of keeping the fight standing. The referee broke them apart and Camur threw a couple of head kicks with nothing really landing, and Knight scored with a punching flurry at the bell.
Camur threw his strikes as he closed the distance to start the second round. He clinched up and brought the fight to the floor, and after taking the back for a moment, Knight spun around into top position. Back on the feet, Knight hit a toss and landed a couple of ground strikes before Camur got back up. A botched sacrifice throw from Camur resulted in Knight in side control. He punched his way into full mount, and tried for an Americana as the round ended.
Knight went back to the takedown in the third round. He worked his way tot he back, but Camur managed to shuck him off to get on top. Knight worked back to his feet and they clinched up against the cage for a bit. Camur was put on his back once again, and Knight solidified top position for the rest of the round.
Juan Espino def. Jeff Hughes by submission (Scarf Hold) at 3:48 of round 1: Heavyweight
Espino pressured right away, throwing his hands and back up Hughes to the fence. He got himself a takedown and looked to advance his position. Hughes made it up to his feet a couple of times, but every time Espino was able to take him right back down. Espino ended up exploding into side control and locking up a scarf hold to force the tap.
Danilo Marques def. Khadis Ibragimov by unanimous decision (29-28 x2, 30-27): Light Heavyweight
Marques shot in to get things going, but Ibragimov fought hard to remain on his feet. At one point, Ibragimov used the fence to avoid ending up on the bottom. The referee slapped his hand away and no point was deducted. In open space, Ibragimov landed a flurry that busted open the nose of Marques. The fight went back into grappling territory, and Marques was able to take the back for the rest of the round.
A staring contest broke out in the seocnd round for quite some time. Marques finally made a move and took the back once again. Not a lot happened from the position outside of Marques controlling.
Marques went back to the takedown to start the fourth frame, but Ibragimov again used the fence to stay on his feet. The referee warned him and the fight played on. Ibragimov landed some heavy punches as Marques was trying to close the distance, and then used a scramble to take top position. Marques managed to work his way into top position and back onto the back, and that’s where he stayed until the bell.